Home Boxing News Bantamweight mania continues when Emmanuel Rodriguez clashes with Melvin Lopez on Saturday

Bantamweight mania continues when Emmanuel Rodriguez clashes with Melvin Lopez on Saturday

Emmanuel Rodriguez and Melvin Lopez. Photo credit: Amanda Westcott/Showtime

The final piece of the bantamweight puzzle will fall into place this weekend when former IBF 118-pound champion Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Rodriguez 21-2 (13) get the chance to win back his old title against Melvin ‘Melo’ Lopez 29-1 (19) at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland on Saturday night.

All four major world titles at bantamweight were rendered vacant when undisputed champion Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue 25-0 (22) announced his decision to move up in weight.

This paved the way for his younger brother Takuma Inoue 18-1 (4) to face veteran Liborio Solis 37-7-1 (18) for the vacant WBA belt in April, a fight he won by unanimous decision.

The following month Jason ‘Mayhem’ Moloney 26-2 (19) collected the vacant WBO strap by majority decision against Vincent Astrolabio 18-4 (13), while last month Alexandro ‘Peque’ Santiago 28-3-5 (14) was crowned WBC champion after his unanimous decision win over veteran Nonito ‘The Filipino Flash’ Donaire 42-8 (28).

Puerto Rican Rodriguez, 31, has been without a world title for four years since losing the IBF championship to Naoya Inoue by second round knockout in the semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series.

As far as Rodriguez is concerned, now is his time to shine.

“I’m more mature and experienced now than I was when I first won the title,” Rodriguez said. “I will be the fifth world champion from Puerto Rico right now and that would be a privilege. That’s the goal in this fight.

“I guarantee you I’m gonna come out with the win on Saturday because I’m the toughest opponent he’s ever faced.

“I’m gonna prove I’m the best fighter in the division. This is gonna send a message to all the other champions that I’m here to stay.

“I’ve had so much love and support from Puerto Rico already. The island is eager to see me fight and I want to give back all that love with a win on Saturday night.”

Rodriguez is predicting a stoppage victory.

“Starting in the fourth round, I should be able to figure out what he’s got in store for me,” he said. “Then I feel like I can stop him between the fourth and seventh rounds.

“I’ve trained in Mexico and it’s been like a second home. They’ve really supported me. I owe it to all of them to give it my all.

“The fans are gonna see an amazing show and the best version of Emmanuel Rodriguez. I guarantee that.”

The 25-year-old Lopez of Nicaragua fell short of predicting a knockout win, but did guarantee he would come away victorious.

“Winning would bring me happiness and pride for my country, and it would prove to me that all my hard work ever since I was little, paid off,” Lopez said.

“He can say whatever he wants, talk is cheap. Saturday night is where it’s all shown. He’s gonna have to back it up.

“I’m not gonna guarantee a knockout. I’m an animal that hunts for his prey. I’m gonna try to get him where I want and whatever happens, happens.

“He says he’s the best in the division and he’s gonna try to show it. But I’m gonna do the same thing. I’m gonna try to show that I’m the best on Saturday night.

“I’m gonna give it my all for the world title. We both want it badly. For everyone watching on Saturday night, I’m gonna do everything I can to bring the title home.”